From the rolling olive groves of home in Jaén province, through dramatic craggy outcrops of the Sierra Magina sprinklings of autumn colour were highlighted between the olive groves´ evergreen landscape. I left the ´Sea of Olive trees´ behind heading due south, direction Granada and beyond. Enormous fluffy white clouds hang around the rocky peaks, it was a normal day in Andalucia, basically cobalt sky with not so common bursts of bright, puffy white masses, both of which look over-filtered through my necessary sunglasses.
The regimented rows of olive trees faded into climbing, scrambling, not so lush trees scaling the hills interspersed with vibrant, and uncommon bursts of colour. A strip of rusty coloured poplars lined the bank of a stream, glimmering richly in the autumn sunshine. The greenery was overtaken by a wildness, ruined farmsteads and rocky peaks topped with Moorish watchtowers. The Granada province border sign flashed by and the land flattens.
Asparagus fields, golden, glinting and chunks of poplar plantations crowd the plains through which the Autovia de Sierra Nevada – Costa Tropical cuts a swathe. Then the big one, the mother of mountain ranges and Andalucia´s only ski resort – the Sierra Nevada, came into view. Gigantic, rolling and dipping, dominating the backdrop. Edging around the city of Granada we headed for its coast. Our destination was halfway between the two, the Lecrin Valley.
At the base of The Alpujarras, the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, the Lecrin Valley´s fertile plains get watered by the melting snow of the sierras. Whirling windmills, larger though not as ascetically pleasing as Quixote´s giants, decorated the skyline. We´d arrived. Happy Valley or the Valley of Happiness is its second name, given by the Moors to this area of lower ground.
Alqueria de los Lentos
Our lodging huddled under the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Natural Park at the edge of the Lecrin Valley plains. On the outskirts of the very charming white village of Nigüelas, Lecrin Valley´s highest municipality. The rural hotel, once a flour mill, has fourteen rooms, some in the mill building, some in the gardens. The leats that drove the mill wheels flow abundantly, and history reigns at this charming hotel. The bar-restaurant still has the ancient mill workings and oodles of charm. We arrived at lunchtime and opted, on that not so warm, early winter day, to eat indoors. Warmth, tradition, centuries-old wooden beams, tons of character and Christmas decor reigned, along with the heart-warming scent of spiced candles. We ate very comfortably and very well, both lunch, dinner and breakfast in the well-rated restaurant which has a Repsol Guide Solete rating.
Our room, No. 15 Lady´s Haystack in the old wheat mill, overlooked the gardens and the terrace over the Lecrin Valley. It had a lovely sitting room with fireplace, shower room and bedroom, rustic and welcoming even on one of the shortest days of the year, and the burbling waters lulled us to sleep. We´d timed our stay for the monthly craft market in the grounds – and the last one before Christmas, a draw that attracts many artisans with their wares.
On summer evenings, I was told, dinner is al fresco and live bands play in the gardens, harmonised by the flow of water and background of mountains. It wasn´t hard to imagine a very different stay on summer days with cool breezes floating down and the swimming pool open. Or chilling in the gardens with a book from their library, taking a dip in the Jacuzzi between olive trees or using the Hammam Arab Bath. A place to stay whatever the weather, having been in winter, I´d like to visit Alqueria de los Lentos again – in warmer climes.
Soon to be on my Only Spain. Go to the Alqueria de los Lentos website.
See my brief video of Alqueria on my newish YouTube channel Where to Stay in Spain.